THURS: Push To Reopen Private Schools Arrives In Federal Court , + More

Sep 24, 2020

Push To Reopen Private Schools Arrives In Federal Court – Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A federal judge is weighing whether pandemic-related occupancy limits for private schools in New Mexico violate constitutional rights to equal protection and freedom of assembly.

A federal judge heard preliminary arguments Wednesday without ruling in a case being closely watched by educators and the Trump administration.

The lawsuit by the father of a 7th-grader at Albuquerque Academy says the state is violating the U.S. Constitution by setting more stringent limits at private schools regarding in-person instruction.

A state public health order limits in-person instruction to 25% of maximum room capacity, while the public schools can submit reopening proposals to the state Public Education Department with guidelines for a 50% occupancy.

The administration of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says private schools already occupy a privileged position with minimal state oversight and resources that allowed some to reboot in-person instruction before comparable public schools.

Private schools in New Mexico enroll about 22,000 students — or nearly 7% of school-aged children.

Albuquerque Aims To Save Spirit Of Annual Balloon Fiesta – Susan Montoya, Associated press

Fall in Albuquerque just isn’t fall without the annual international hot air balloon fiesta. It draws tens of thousands of spectators and pilots from around the globe each October.

Organizers had to cancel this year's event due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Mayor Tim Keller said Wednesday he wants to keep the tradition alive for residents. So local pilots are being invited to launch from city parks, golf courses and other open spaces from Oct. 3-11.

Keller said the question was how Albuquerque could maintain its traditions despite the limits that COVID-19 has placed on large gatherings like the balloon fiesta. He pointed to the city's Fourth of July celebration, saying the dispersed fireworks displays at different spots around town served as a model for how the city could keep the spirit of the balloon fiesta alive.

City officials stressed that spectators won't be allowed at the launch sites but that the balloons will be visible from around the city after they lift off.

3 States Added To New Mexico’s High Risk List – Associated Press

Travelers arriving in or returning to New Mexico from Colorado, Oregon and Rhode Island will be required to quarantine for 14 days in a bid to manage the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham added those three states to New Mexico’s list of “high risk” states on Wednesday based on coronavirus positivity rates and per capita infections.

In all, there are 39 states on New Mexico’s list of high-risk states.

People who can show documentation of a valid negative COVID-19 test taken within the 72 hours before or after entry into New Mexico from another state are exempt from the quarantine requirement.

New Mexico health officials on Wednesday reported 200 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to nearly 27,990.

The additional cases include 11 among New Mexico Corrections Department inmates at the Lea County Correctional Facility. In all, there have been 561 cases among state inmates since the pandemic began.

Officials also reported three additional deaths linked to COVID-19.

Enrollment Drop Could Hurt Funding For New Mexico Schools – Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press

Members of the Legislative Education Study Committee heard pleas Wednesday to keep up school funding, even if enrollment is dropping because of the pandemic.

School funding in New Mexico is determined by the number of students enrolled at the 40-day mark, known by some educators as the “money count.” That count is not yet complete, but preliminary numbers show a significant drop in the state’s largest school district.

Reductions in enrollment are being seen across districts as a significant number of parents put their children into homeschooling, delay enrollment, or struggle to connect with online programs.

In Albuquerque, enrollment has dropped by about 4,000 students, bringing the total to

76,000. School district spokesperson Monica Armenta cautioned that the 5% drop could change because enrollment numbers still are fluid.

Interim Superintendent Scott Elder said that if his district is penalized under the current funding structure, it could lose $36 million despite increased costs and a higher student population next year.